Sylvia Path was born October 27, 1932, in Boston, Massachusetts. Her father died of diabetes when she was only eight, an event that greatly influenced her writing, especially the poem, “Daddy.” Throughout her childhood she was a very driven student, and after high school, received a scholarship to Smith College in 1950. A talented writer, it was around this time she won first prize in a contest conducted by Mademoiselle magazine for her short story, “Sunday at the Minton’s.”
However, Plath suffered from severe depression throughout most of her life. She attempted suicide at age twenty and was institutionalized briefly. Eventually she went back to school and graduated summa cum laude in 1955. After receiving another scholarship, she moved to Cambridge, England, where she met her husband, fellow poet Ted Hughes. They married in 1956 and returned to America when Plath was offered a teaching position at her alma mater. Although the school was pleased with her performance, she often worried that she wasn’t doing a good enough job, making her extremely anxious and unhappy. The next year she opted for a less stressful job and also attended a night class given by Robert Lowell, a poet who greatly influenced Plath’s confessional style of writing.
Path returned to England in 1960 and published her first collection of poems, Colossus. She also gave birth to a daughter and a son. Shortly after in 1962, Plath discovered her husband was having an affair, an event which furthered her depression. However, it was during this time she wrote her most famous works, a poem collection called Ariel and her semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar. As with many poets, her most prized works were not published until after her death, with one of her collections winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1982. Before she could be recognized for her efforts, the troubled poet killed herself using her gas oven on February 11, 1963.